Walked 10km along main road to Cape Nyudo. Along from the enormous car park and the warehouses of souvenirs and grilled shellfish sellers, the grassy cliffs offered great views of the gigantic, craggy rocks that stood along the seashore.
In the rock pools, a grandad in swimming trunks and small, round spectacles fumbled with the opening of a fishing net full of turban shells.
“I told you, don`t worry about it Dad,” his daughter shouted, “the man has already said he doesn`t like them.”
Grandad looked lost for a moment, then his grandson up from Saitama temporarily came to the rescue, showing off all the shellfish he had collected. Then Grandad recovered the initiative in the conversation: “Oga`s got a great rugby team you know.”
I bet they have: their namahage ogres would make unstoppable wide men.
Glad to escape Granded without a gift this time. But then I had a big problem. Only 4 buses a day go from remote Cape Nyudo and these buses require a reservation. I was stuck in the rockpools with the turban shells unless I hitched.
The drivers of the first few passing cars laughed at me. It was humiliating. I could not master the pose. I was eventually saved by a quiet couple from Yamagata in a smart, gold coloured Nissan Fuga. They had never ever picked up a hitcher before, probably never will again. I repeatedly tried to reassure them I was neither namahage nor foreign devil. Not sure I managed it.
Namahage and foreign devil actually might mean the same thing. A man weeding a hedge at the onsen resort explained that as Oga juts out into the Japan Sea, in the past many foreign sailors washed up here with the tide. And foreigners, with their red faces and big noses, look a bit like namahage.
I suddenly felt very red and very foreign. Perhaps the drivers who had raced past earlier had been screaming with fear.